Significance : 2014 Formal Awards Night Speech

Welcome to the 2014 Formal Awards Night.

Thankyou Anthony for your introduction and I’ll say thanks on behalf of Nivo for saving him from having to make another speech tonight ! J

I think this year it’s clear that we are going for the “quality over quantity” approach. This time last year we had double the amount of attendance and I have learnt a valuable lesson: Run the event in November before the craziness kicks in! There were a lot of people that wanted to attend and couldn’t make it due to other events they were required to be at….and I know it’s a busy time of year.

So….I know you have put aside your time and your money to be here tonight, and I really want you to know how much it means to me that you are in fact here now… I put every effort into making this a special night for all and I hope you enjoy yourself and feel that your investment was worthwhile.

I know I read directly from the paper…’s because I have to, to keep my mind on track………….So many thoughts per second , per minute…those that train with me know what I’m talking about. So…. Please forgive my lack of eye contact!

This year…..I planned on my speech being somewhat shorter than normal. A bit like me – Not huge……however to the point and mostly on target.

So let’s get straight to the point. ‘Significance’.

It’s an interesting word don’t you think? And I like words. What’s cool about words is that they are just that. Words. But a little like Rissoles and Mum’s cooking on the movie The Castle…..”It’s what you do with them”!

It’s not the word itself that gives it meaning…but those which come before and after.

IT’s not that they are said…it’s how and by who.

We all know that you can be told the same thing many times, but someone will just put it slightly differently….or perhaps your frame of mood will alter the way the meaning comes across and all of a sudden this “thing” being said resonates with you. Amazing.

I think this theory can also be applied to martial arts techniques.

IT’s not the punch, the kick, or the arm bar…’s the block that came before, allowing that punch to get through. Or maybe the slight footwork manoeuvrer that allowed you to land that kick…or the patience and foresight to sit and wait for your opponent to falter and move his grip so you could apply that choke. It’s knowing the basics and being able to put them together which creates the poetry in motion.

But….more than knowing the basics…I think what’s more important is understanding the ‘why’.

I remember I used to drive my high school math’s teachers crazy as I was always asking why. I would be told to just select the appropriate formula and apply to reveal the correct answer. This frustrated me no end because in order for my brain to understand which formula was the right one to use in the first place…I Needed to know why! Aaaaarrrghhhhh……it was a viscous circle and….Oh anyway. Enough reminiscing.

In Martial Arts it’s important to listen to your master. Your Sensei, Your Coach, Your teacher. Whoever that person is that is imparting their knowledge to you.

They have put time and effort into learning. Sometimes years of dedication. We must respect this and know that the reason we are here is to learn from this person something which we do not already know.

Or …maybe we do know….but need this person to push us and correct us, and guide us and make us fitter and stronger and better.

For this to happen however and in the shortest space of time, we must not question their instructions or judgement. We must follow and do as instructed.

What we should strive to find though is the why. Sosai said that all questions can be answered in training. Of this I am sure. Some answers come quickly…and others take much time. Some require patience and others are a quick and brutal lesson in a tournament situation. Regardless of how the answer is revealed though…..we need to strive to understand the meaning behind the lesson. We must push ourselves to discover the Significance.

Running a dojo is a hard business. I trust you all enough to say that Sometimes it’s tough enough that I doubt that It can continue. Then my ‘why’ kicks in…the knowing to my very core that running the dojo is all I ever want to do.

I have no plan B.

I have invested everything into those four walls where so many good things happen.

Peoples lives change. I know this because people tell me. You don’t always see it when you are up that close. Like you don’t notice your own child growing but then someone they haven’t seen for a while shows up and is astounded at their size!

It’s been a strange couple of months where lots of old students have either returned to training or have visited and written some just amazing letters to me. These thing’s strengthen my resolve, booster my confidence and remind me why it’s so important that I do what I do. Why all instructors do. It’s reminded me of the dojo’s Significance, not just to me….but I imagine to all of you here tonight and definitely to those that are still apart of the dojo but not able to be here.

I have also been made aware that even to those not still active members of EMAA….that passing through our doors has put them on some pretty grand detours in life and been a significant and meaningful part of their journey. That’s a big Wow for me.

I asked you all to bring along an item tonight. Something that was Significant to you. I’m gonna quickly open up the Mic to anyone who has something they would like to share………….

I want you to talk to each other tonight. Put down your phones and ask each other about these items and see what kinds of things come up.

I hope it’s an interesting journey ………I hope you hear some cool stories…but most of all it’s thinking about what to bring that I hope leads you to question yourself on some basic life concepts. What gives meaning to your world? Who are you? What are you supposed to do and Why?

I’m still working on this….but I honestly believe 100% that when you know your why…….and focus only on that….then the HOW shall be revealed to you.

And then when you DO your Why……You will be Happy.

One last thing……on your place-cards…you are probably wondering why there is a pen. I am sure you have heard the expression that the Pen is Mightier than the sword. Do You know why?

So you have been given a special gift indeed.

Use it well.

Back to Basics

Last night was our Eltham Martial Arts Academy Formal Awards Night. It was a really great night with a great ‘anti bullying’ demo by the juniors and of course Award presentations , a visit from Santa, and just a great night with everyone decked out in their finest, good food, wine , drinks , dancing and even better company. It always makes me happy and feel accomplished every year to stand up in front of everyone and make a speech. For those that were there last night…thanks for listening.

Here is a copy of my speech :

Let me officially say welcome to the Eltham Martial Arts Academy Formal Awards Night 2013.

Thanks Mark Niven for the introduction and words……and let me take a second to say….” You guys scrub up alright!”

In all seriousness though, Each time we have this event and I stand up here, it really makes me feel proud to be part of such a great group of people and I am so thankful for my circle of friends. Simply by being here you are showing your support for me and EMAA, and of course each other.

So now, that being said…..without further ado……let’s get my speech cracking… always…..I only have a couple of things to say  😛 (winky face )

Somewhere in the world right now, there is a martial arts instructor standing in front of a class telling their students the importance of basics. Of why we must train them each and every class to establish not only technique, but an automatic action that we can rely on in times of stress. A programmed response that happens seemingly without conscious thought, much like the beating of our hearts, or our own respiration.

The fancy stuff is nice, (the back spinning kicks, the complicated joint manipulations, takedowns and the awesome jumping elbows etc) however they are what I like to consider as bonus extra’s. To the junior class, I explain this as sprinkles. It’s a simple analogy, but what is the point of sprinkles without the ice-cream to eat them with?

Nothing ends a fight quite like a simple well timed hard punch to the face – smack on the jaw, a decent kick to the groin , or a fantastic roundhouse to the head , so it makes sense to practice those and make sure the simple and effective stuff is well rehearsed and ready to go.

A famous quote by Aristotle states:

“We are that which we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.”

And thus, it makes sense that if one wishes to Excell… to establish great habits. We must develop an attitude whereby we are prepared to continue to practice the same things over and over without thinking we have perfected something. We must remain humble and open minded and honour the training and our instructors. And It’s worthwile mentioning that ‘everyone’ is your teacher. There are lessons to be learnt from everyone and everything. If one was to consider….just for a moment ….that you could learn something even from and Ant !

What you ask….well how about the fact that many hands make light work. Or to not to judge a person’s strength through size alone. You know how strong an ant is right ?!  Yup….x 10 times their own body weight they can lift. Ever seen anyone do that in the gym?  

But I digress. Martial arts in it’s essence is simple. There is no “secret “except that which Sosai spoke of. If there was one….it was SWEAT.  Sweat and spirit. Morever I believe that on most occasions when people fall or people fail…it wasn’t their body or their technique, but their spirit. 

That’s why I love Kyokushin. It may have shortfalls as I believe all the arts do but wherever it lacks technically, it makes up for threefold in terms of it’s spirit. During my martial arts journey thus far, I’ve heard well established and senior martial artists in differing styles claim such thing’s such as that you needn’t be fit to win a real fight. That you needn’t have loads of techniques under your belt or that long and arduous grading’s are a waste of time and don’t really contribute to your ability.

All those things may in fact be true in the first sense, However………That physical and moreover the mental strength you develop through forcing your body and mind through an 8 hour grading, a punishing class, or the humility and respect for both the art and others you forge through tough competition……gives you something inside that not everyone is lucky to hold within. A never say die attitude and a self knowledge that no matter what…..thy will not quit. Not now. Not ever. Osu No Seishin.

The simplicity of martial arts can be echoed in everyday life.

It’s a shame then when we get caught up in the myriad of distractions available to us nowadays. We are essentially wired in (and of this I’m guilty as charged)  to our social devices and our work. We are contactable 24 /7 and we can and do work anywhere as we can access “information” at the slide of a finger or push of a button. Emails, Videos , games, music, and the money….oh the money. We can spend it on all those things we are convinced by media, companies and our peers that we apparently need…….without even leaving the house. In fact…..We can do it wherever there is online access ……and these days……you don’t even need to ‘have’ money to spend it !

But we don’t need this stuff.

We need sleep.

We need nutrition from whole food and clean fresh water

We need loving relationships

We need exercise

We need basic clothing and a place to call home that is safe.

Everything else is extra.

Everything else is sprinkles.

It’s managing what we need with what is nice to have that is our challenge.Knowing the difference is the first part. Keeping ourselves inline and in focus is the second and the difficult part.

And so…here we are again….at the pointy end of the circle.

That lesson from practicing and repeating basics so that they are automatic programmed responses. 

It’s then you start to realize that we do the same thing with our lives every day. In our dealings with others, relationships, our careers and then we pass those things on to our children through our interaction with them. And that’s A-OK if those responses are positive and enhance our martial arts or our dday to day lives, but what if they don’t ? 

People / or we , generally react the way we behaved last time….and we repeat those behavior’s even if they don’t produce a so called ‘desired response’.

It’s like When someone at work annoys you because every morning you walk in and the first thing they say is “ have you seen that email about whatever and it’s red hot urgent ! ” and immediately you get your back up. You are annoyed because You haven’t even sat down yet, settled in at your desk…and you are already being barked at. So then …your’e programmed response might be to get grumpy…heart rate increases….and then you start stammering some excuse why you haven’t read it yet…but will in a minute and ……oh…Ive got a headache already.

But to change that programmed response…you could simple smile at this person……throw them off guard and say “ Good Morning. How are you Today ?” And keep on smiling. Not sure why….but I think of Alan Shaw from Boston Legal when I do that. It’s so simple……but sometimes the power of distraction can change the whole mood. Try it next time. Continue reading “Back to Basics”